book review

Hauntingly Gorgeous | Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Friday, January 21, 2022

 Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: 1/28/14
Pages: 346
Source: purchased



Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him. With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people. But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
Nyx was born to kill her betrothed. It was the only way for the world to go back to the way it was. After getting married to the Dark Lord of the land, Nyx is curious in her husband’s life. And is killing him the only answer to save the world? In this hauntingly gorgeous retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Rosamund Hodge weaves a magnificent tale of demons and Greek mythology like you’ve never seen before.

Beauty and the Beast Retelling

  • I’m not too familiar with Beauty and the Beast. In fact, I only know the Disney version. And as much as I adore that version, I’m sure the story is a bit darker than that. Cruel Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a haunting tale of duty falling in love with the dark.
  • The writing is absolutely gorgeous. It simply flows right off the tongue. The writing reminded me a lot of A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. Both works had a dutiful character resigned to their fate. Within the writing held breathtaking prose that is sure to grip you.
  • The world building was beyond beautiful. Great writing helps the world become believable and majestic. It is both pretty and visual, the descriptions seeming to take your imagination to the limits.
  • A lot of the story takes place within the Dark Lord’s castle. The building itself was a whole world on its own and every time Nyx explores, I want to continue looking through doorways at all the different rooms which the place held. Every room became a surprise.
  • I noticed bits of Greek mythology thrown in there as well which I wasn’t expecting. It was incredibly interesting to the story. The layers of depth to the characters, delving into their backstory and beliefs, made me curious to learn about each and every one of them.
  • Ignifex, the male protagonist, is a demon Rumpelstiltskin. In that way, I found there to be many snippets of different retellings in Cruel Beauty. However, Beauty and the Beast seemed to be the most prominent of all. 

Unforgettable Characters

  • Nyx, the main character, is terribly brave and dutiful. It was very easy to fall in step with her. She was flawed but relatable. Her narrative, much like the gorgeous writing, is haunting. She is a character, knowing her destiny from the start—one that she may not return from—and continuing on anyway to save the world.
  • The clever banter between Nyx and Ignifex was incredibly entertaining. It was such a strange predicament to be in: a marriage without ever meeting before the ceremony was over. It was amusing to see them hit it off so well, even if most of the dialogue is witty and filled with sarcasm. 
  • Ignifex is such a tortured soul and I wish Hodge had shown a little more of his character to us. I loved every scene with him, hoping to see deeper into his character. All of his dialogue was always comforting and significant to the plot.
  • Shade was entirely too easy to trust. Right in the beginning, this is the character that opens up to us in the first few chapters and shows us things Ignifex probably never would. Shade seems so much like an open book, despite his dark past and many secrets. He is a man born of shadows, a slave to the castle. I was so drawn to him from the start because both Nyx and he share that in common, no matter how much they want to leave the castle, they are stuck.

Surprises Galore

  • As a Beauty and the Beast retelling, romance is inevitable. It is a pleasant surprise, seeing how Hodge lets the beautiful romance simply unfold into a gentle hope that maybe not all is lost in Nyx’s world.
  • Cruel Beauty was a fast read. It was hard to put down and definitely the type of read you can finish in one setting.
  • The ending seemed so fast, yet not rushed. By the time the book closed, I was gasping for air. I just couldn’t get enough of the Cruel Beauty world.

Overall

Cruel Beauty was a surprise like no other. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast delves deeper into the many facets of tales, coming alive between pages of haunting prose. Readers of Falling Under by Gwen Hayes will love this fresh take on an old classic.

Top Ten Tuesday

10 2021 Releases I Was Excited To Read But Didn't

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

 There were so many books I wanted to get to last year and didn’t. While making this list, I noticed how many of these books, besides the big ones like A Court of Silver Flames, weren’t really talked about in the book community. Where are all the readers at? Hopefully, I get to most of these this year.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To:


A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee: I have always thought that books about witches are not for me. However, after loving Serpent and Dove last year, I don’t think I can say that anymore. Thus, I want to see how I like A Lesson in Vengeance. This one follows Felicity, who has returned to her New York boarding school after her girlfriend tragically died. The school, though, is rumored to be haunted by the spirits of witches. The book sounds so intricately dark and atmospheric. 

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer: Is it too soon for a pandemic fantasy? It’ll be interesting to see how Tessa will save the world from the sickness that’s been plaguing the kingdom. I can’t wait to read Kemmerer’s newest release.

Phantom Heart by Kelly Creagh: While I have adored Creagh’s books in the past, I am more intrigued about this one than anything. It’s marketed as a steamy YA (which I don’t even know what that means) that mixes elements of Twilight and the Phantom of the Opera


Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey: Rodkey also has another book coming out this year that I am anticipating, A Disaster in Three Acts, so I would love to read this one before devouring her new release. Last Chance Books follows a chain bookstore as it moves to town intent on driving the independent bookstore out. Madeline is set against letting that happen. Books about books or bookstores are one of my favorite things!

The Marvelous by Claire Kann: I have heard no one mention this release last year. However, it has vibes of The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and the movie, Knives Out. It follows a group of teens who are locked inside a mansion, all set on competing for a huge cash prize.

Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan: When I made the list of all the books I was anticipating this year, I noticed Bhuiyan has a new release coming and I must read her debut before her next book, A Show for Two, releases. I’m grinning just thinking about how cute Counting Down with You will be! Her strict parents are away traveling—and won’t be back until the end of the month—so they’ll never find out that Karina has agreed to fake-date the school’s resident bad boy. And we all know how that’ll turn out. 


Sky Breaker by Addie Thorley: I am so shocked that I went through 2021 without reading this one. Night Spinner was absolutely breathtaking. Sky Breaker is the conclusion to this Hunchback of Notre Dame inspired tale.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas: I kind of have mixed feelings about this because it is following Nesta. I never really liked Nesta in the other books so I don’t know how I feel about reading a whole book in her perspective. However, a lot of readers have been hyping this one and everyone has seemed to be loving it. Of course, I have to continue in the ACOTAR series.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken: I adored Bracken’s Passenger duology so I’m excited to read this one! It’s a new take on Greek mythology, where rebel gods are punished to walk the earth as mortals and kill a god in order to gain their immortality back. I love reading books about Greek gods and goddesses so I can’t wait to see how Bracken weaves this tale.


Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney: Every time Quinn ugly cries, she writes her fear down in a journal never to face them. However, then her journal goes missing and an anonymous message blackmails her into facing all her fears or her journal will be made public. There’s nothing I love more than list making and a swoon worthy romance.

Which 2021 book releases are you planning on reading this year?

Top Ten Tuesday

10 Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Way back when, I used to list my book hauls and chat about how excited I was to read each one. While endlessly time-consuming, I enjoyed discussing why I picked a certain book up or why I couldn’t wait to read it. However, I rarely post my book hauls now. Yet, when I saw that this was a prompt for Top Ten Tuesday, I couldn’t wait to gush about all the recent books I acquired.

With the holidays and Barnes and Noble having a wonderful 50% off all hardcovers sale, I purchased and received quite a lot of books recently. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is: 10 Most Recent Additions to my Book Collection:


The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni: This was a highly anticipated release of mine when it first came out and I just recently acquired it. Kiva is the prison healer, working to keep prisoners alive long enough to undergo the Trial. When the rebel Queen is captured, Kiva enacts a plan that has her taking the Queen’s place in the Trials. The only problem: no one has ever survived the ordeals. It sounds amazing!

The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee: Who knew there was a third sibling? This is the third (and final?) book in the Montague Siblings series. I adored the first book and liked the second so I’m looking forward to this one as Lee’s writing is always able to whisk readers on some crazy adventure.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse: Over the last year, a ton of booktubers have been gushing about how great this book is. While adult fantasy is not something I pick up often, if ever, I intend to try my hand at it this year. 


Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett: I’ve loved all of Bennett’s releases lately so I definitely wanted to get my hands on this one. This one follows Josie as she returns home only to have her plans interrupted in a big way when she falls for the local bad boy.

That Way Madness Lies edited by Dahlia Adler: This is a short story collection that reimagines 15 Shakespeare tales by the most note-worthy of authors, including Anna-Marie McLemore, Ibi Zoboi, Tochi Onyebuchi, Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, K. Ancrum and so many more. I own Adler’s Edgar Allen Poe collection as well but still have to read it. As I adore both Poe’s and Shakespear’s work, I have high hopes for these short stories.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard: This one is a newest release from Aveyard and it isn’t even in the Red Queen series. I can’t wait to see what else Aveyard can do. 


Time Will Tell by Barry Lyga: I have adored Lyga in the past but haven’t read a book by him in such a long time. Yet, when I heard about this one—a group of teens unearth their parents’ time capsule only to discover a bloody knife and a whole lot of secrets—I knew I needed to read it immediately. 

The Righteous by Renee Ahdieh: I think a reread of The Beautiful series is in order before I devour this third book. This series is so atmospheric and absolutely gorgeous, set in a historic New Orleans with vampires roaming about.

Phantom Heart by Kelly Creagh: I adored the Nevermore series, which tackles Poe’s stories in a unique way and deals with alternate universes. Phantom Heart is being pitched as a steamy YA romance (like, huh?) with Twilight and Phantom of the Opera thrown in. I am so confused and excited to find out what’s in store.


The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh: I would love to read more horror in the new year. I have a few horror-esque books on my tbr shelf, such as Dawn Kurtagich’s Teeth in the Mist, Sara Faring’s The Tenth Girl, and Amy Lukavics’ The Ravenous. This one sounds a bit more traditional with a skeptic ghost hunter investigating a haunted estate.

What books did you haul recently?

book review

Beyond the Retelling | The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Friday, January 07, 2022

 The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh


Publisher:
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 4/26/16
Pages: 416
Source: purchased
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever. Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive. The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.
The Wrath and the Dawn was a majestic retelling of the beloved classic, A Thousand and One Nights. The Rose and the Dagger goes beyond the story you know. Tarik stole away Shazi in the dead of night, hoping to save her from an inevitable fate. Instead, it brings upon a war no one is prepared for. Shazi, intent on returning home to her husband, must find a way to break the curse that keeps her away. The Rose and the Dagger is a fantastic sequel with gorgeous writing, amazing characters and a powerful story.

Action-Packed Sequel

  • The sequel drops us off soon after the previous book, The Wrath and the Dawn, ended. The Rose and the Dagger brought back the story and characters I so loved in the first. And stepped the plot up a notch. The Rose and the Dagger goes beyond the retelling, twisting the original story into something truly magnificent and fresh.
  • Once again, Renee Ahdieh makes me hungry with all this talk of food. Every meal the characters had seem to be a feast with several different dishes. Everything sounds delicious.

Loveable Characters

  • When we met Musa in the first book, he had this fatherly stature about him that was so heartwarming, something about him that just made me want to spill secrets. He is such a unique and incredibly well-written character. I'm so happy that Ahdieh gave him a much larger role in this one. It was fantastic to welcome back several characters from the first and to see them tread through the plot of the second. 
  • Shazi has high levels of sass and snarky-ness, not to mention she is strong and brave. Every obstacle she faces, she does so independently and gloriously. I would read several more books with Shazi as the lead. I love her voice and how she works out problems. And she has a magic carpet so that automatically makes her the coolest person ever. 
  • There are some new characters and old characters that are challenged, thrown into such precarious situations that I wondered how they would get out of some of the messes. Ahdieh writes so incredibly well. The characters come to life on the page, each unique and layered, real and raw. 

Beautiful Plot

  • Following the first book, it wouldn't be in The Wrath and the Dawn fashion if there wasn't a sort of tale told. Shazi is a master storyteller, as I said in my review of the first book, but we also get a story from Irsa, her sister. Ahdieh weaves the stories in a way that does not interrupt the flow of the novel. Instead, the tales enhance the main plot, keeping you focused on finding foreshadowing or a deeper meaning in her text.
  • The chapters are bite sized, making it very easy to read. The Rose and the Dagger can, thus, be a quick read but also with such small chapters, it can be taken slow to savor each scene.
  • The ending was a surprise; it was a rollercoaster of emotions that I couldn't process until a beat later. "Wait, that didn't just happen, did it?" At certain points, I even had to go back and reread. The story sucks you in, refusing to let go. The Rose and the Dagger was absolutely superb.

Overall

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh surprises you in the best of ways. It goes completely beyond the retelling of the first. The characters, once again, come to life in this fantastic sequel, which is both action packed and incredibly imaginative. 


The Wrath & The Dawn (5/12/15): 4 stars
The Rose & The Dagger (4/26/16): 5 stars

Tackling my TBR

Tackling My TBR: January 2022

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

 It's a new year and I am still reading my way through my owned tbr. Tackling My TBR is a monthly post, where I share my reading plans for the upcoming month. The concept of a TBR Jar is not a new one. I’ve seen it used in various ways throughout the bookish community. My jar is a little different. The goal is to read the older books on my to-read pile. Thus, instead of putting individual book titles on a small sheet of paper to place in the jar, I wrote a month and a year on each. Each month, I intend to pull three sheets of paper from my jar which will dictate which three books I will read. The dates on the paper correspond with the date I added those books to my Goodreads account. Some months will have over 20 books to choose from, when others may have only one. From Goodreads, I’ll choose the three books from the three different monthly hauls. And if I cannot complete the book within the month, it will be unhauled (with the exception of one pass each month).


In December, I tackled books from my August 2015, February 2011, and December 2017 book hauls. With the holidays, I was able to read two out of the three books that I pulled out of the jar. Unfortunately, I did not get around to reading Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. However, having started The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson back in February of 2021, I was keen to finish it before the new year. While I went into the book knowing that it was going to be a take on the Jack the Ripper story, I was pleasantly surprised at the turns it made and will definitely be continuing in the series. I, also, read They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera which was awfully sad as all readers may expect. It was well written and heartbreaking. Overall, it was a good month for the TBR jar.

This month, from the jar, I picked from my May 2013, May 2015, and January 2017 book hauls. From there I chose the following books:


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: I know this book is extremely popular and I picked it up years ago and never read it. It is about time! I'm hoping I enjoy it because I own other books by Hosseini as well.

Endangered by Lamar Giles: When this book released, it was marketed as comparable to Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers series which was a favorite series of mine back in the day. This book is quite short but I am sure it packs a punch!

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron: This one has been on many of my monthly tbrs and I still have not read it. I have been putting this one off for so long because I am not terribly interested in the dystopian genre. However, I hope I like this one.


One of my goals of the new year is to finish more series. So, in addition to my TBR jar, I created a smaller jar with all the book series I want to finish this year. I plan on picking one series out each month and by the end of the year, I should have finished 12 series. This month I picked the Sands of Arawiya series by Hafsah Faizal.

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal: I only have the last and final book of the duology to finish. While I found the series to have a slow start, I am hoping for an action-packed finale.

What are you planning on reading this month?